Missouri Governor Eric Greitens stayed the sentence of Marcellus Williams just before he was set to be executed tonight. Greitens will appoint a board to review a report from a DNA expert that may support his claim of innocence, as well as other factors.
“Marcellus Williams’ case is a classic example of the inherent injustice of the death penalty system, and why it should be altogether abolished,” said Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA. “No human being should pay the ultimate price for a cruel and inhumane system so capable of error. Missouri must join the right side of history, commute Marcellus’ sentence and that of all others on death row, and bring an end to this irrevocably broken system once and for all.”
Williams was convicted of the 1998 murder of former St. Louis reporter Felicia Gayle by a jury consisting of 11 white jurors and one black juror. Williams is black and Gayle was white. There was no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony linking him to the crime. The jury was not presented evidence of Williams’ background, which included severe abuse and mental disability.
Two experts retained by the appeal lawyers have concluded that DNA testing conducted in December 2016 on the murder weapon excludes Williams as the contributor of the male DNA found on the knife. The lawyers have just filed the latest expert report they have obtained on this with the Missouri Supreme Court in a bid to obtain a stay of execution.